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15 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds

Who can get 15 hours free childcare and how much?

All 3 and 4 year old children can get up to 570 hours of free early education each year. You can use the 15 hours at more than one provider. You must let them both know how many hours you are using with each.

Working parents may be able to get up to 30 hours free childcare.

See GOV.UK for the full eligibility criteria.

Check what help you could get with childcare costs: 

Can I spread my hours over term times?

Some childcare providers may allow you to use your free hours over more weeks by using less hours each week. Speak to your chosen provider to find out how many weeks per year you can spread the funding over.

When can my child get the funding?

The funding will start from the beginning of the term on or after 1 January, April, or September (whichever comes first) following your child's third birthday. It will run up to and will include the term in which they turn 5 or start at a state maintained or independent school reception class. The following table tells you when your funding could start and when to apply.

Claim dates for 15 hours free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds
 Child's birthday When you can claim
Between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2015 The beginning of term on or after 1 April
Between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2015 The beginning of term on or after 1 September
Between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2015 The beginning of term on or after 1 January

You can choose to continue to take up your child's free place at a private, voluntary or independent childcare provider until your child reaches compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday), if you choose not to take up your child's right to a place in a state-funded school reception class in the September following your child's fourth birthday.

What happens when my child starts school?

If your child starts in a reception class of a maintained or independent school in the September after their fourth birthday the funding will get transferred to the school. You won't need to apply again. You can choose to delay your child's start date until the term of their fifth birthday. In these circumstances the funding can continue at their setting. You must still apply for your child's school place by the same admissions deadline as 4 year olds.

See school admissions for more details.

You can't take the additional free hours once your child is taking up a full-time place in a state-funded school reception class, or an independent school reception class.

How to apply

Your setting will apply on your behalf. They will ask you to sign a parental agreement declaring how many hours you want to claim. This will have the funding terms and conditions listed. You will need to apply for any extra hours (30 hours free childcare) online. 

Search for childcare

Search our Family Information Directory to find childcare. You can filter your search by those offering free early education funding.

Fee charging policies

To find out about fee charging policies*, extra costs, paying for fees, deposits and retainers, speak to your childcare provider. *You need to agree to this when you register.

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